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martes, 28 de febrero de 2012

Guide Dog Miracles

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold” – Zelda Fitzgerald

I recently used this quote as the Quote of the Day here at the English School or on my personal Facebook profile, I don’t remember exactly where…

And now, a few days ago, I confirmed it… or I fully understood Zelda’s words. Because we all tend to be quite self-centered and we apply any maxim or quote to our life. I don’t necessarily believe this is a bad habit… since we are applying a little bit of wisdom (that one in small flasks containing great scents, like a Spanish saying goes, and which I’ve been searching for and compiling for years, like little treasures) to what happens to ourselves.

It’s just that there’s other people out there to whom things are happening too… a lot more.

A week ago I went to New Zealand, to work as an interpreter in the 14th International Mobility Conference, where I’ve witnessed surprising experiences and stories… amazing and enriching stories.

But it was one among them all that shocked me to tears and brought this quote back to my mind. One of those stories that you feel the need to share immediately with others… Simply amazing! I also remembered the people I’ve worked with at Leader Dogs for the Blind (Rochester, Michigan) and at Fundación ONCE del Perro Guía. And I imagined how much they would have had enjoyed listening to Per Lundgren’s presentation and watching the videos of that amazing woman named Heather, that amazing dog… a whole amazing family in the end.

Unfortunately, the videos are not available on any web so… the only way I can share this story with you all is wondering here, again, after those inspiring images, if anyone, even if it’s just poets, can measure how much the human heart can hold…

Heather’s heart could hold her blindness, could hold the world depriving her from the treasure that is seeing the world with one’s eyes… it could and still can hold seeing it “only” through all her other senses.

And the world rewarded her with a loving husband who takes care of her… and… 7 children!

Her heart could hold 4 of those children inheriting her visual impairment. Her heart could, and still can hold those children also “seeing” the world through their other senses and with the aid of a white cane that they handle with such mastery and from such an early age that anyone looking at them will feel the most uncoordinated and clumsy person ever. And the world rewarded her making each of those children a model, exemplary, human being. A person with an absolute respect for their siblings; all of them turning their home (with a level of complexity which is hard to imagine for anyone who has never gone through similar difficulties) into an harmonious environment where they all dance from room to room, under the spell of a perfect choregraphy they haven’t even rehearsed.

Her heart could hold hard training with Per, and the many adaptations throughout the years to fix her guide dog mobility techniques depending on her family’s changing circumstances. And the world rewarded her with a little soft, golden, four-legged angel that Per found and trained for her. An angel that has been working for Heather for 5 years now. An angel that learned everything Per taught him… and much more! It was impossible to listen to Per and to watch the clips he showed us without feeling a chill up the spine. Seeing him so proud when he showed u show his A student protected Heather and her family with moves he hadn’t even taught him!

Walking down the street with a little girl holding yoru hand, a little boy next to you with his White cane, carrying one of their twin brothers on your chest and another one on your back (together with all the gadgets and stuff any mother carries around with her: baby bottles, diapers, wet tissues…40 kg Heather carried on her shoulders any time she left the house!), two more children walking behind her, and a guide dog next to her trying to find the space for the whole family to keep walking without bumping into any obstacles… It does sound like much more than what any heart could hold… doesn’t it? and much more than what any guide dog instructor could achieve…

But nobody has ever measured that either, not even poets, not even guide dog instructors themselves. Many colleagues advised Per not to waste his time and effort. It was too much… unmanageable! But Per was not going to give up… he looked for the perfect dog. He found him, and trained him tenaciously. He designed a special harness handle that allowed Heather to walk leaving some space between her and the dog for one of the kids to squeeze in. That way, everything fell into place for the whole family’s street choreography… just perfectly. When the steps and movements combination was perfect… new changes were needed! The kids kept growing… the twins started walking leaving their mom’s chest and back, therefore joining the dance team. And then, there were new comers as well in the dance company! Yes… Heather was pregnant again!

It sounds impossible, unreal… like fiction! I’m sure you all feel by now we’re dangerously approaching the limit of what any human heart could hold… but Heather’s could hold this… and more! Once again, it could hold the uncertainty of not knowing whether this new family member would inherit her visual impairment. And, again, experimenting and adapting her guide dog mobility techniques, with Per’s help. Priceless… also unlimited!

Ironically enough, and maybe to contradict the popular sitcom from the 80’s “Eight is Enough”, when Per was telling us about his experience with Heather, during the 14th edition of the International Mobility Conference in New Zealand, he gave us the news of her being pregnant once again. Their peculiar dance company was awaiting their 9th member. Visually impaired, or not, the newborn will become a part of the choreography that Heather, her husband and her gorgeous yellow lab are already planning with Per while they wait for him.

If this isn’t proof enough that the human heart knows no limit… I don’t know what else we need to prove it. Although I know I’m not talking about ordinary people, but quite extraordinary actually. Maybe there is a limit but, in their case, it is such a high limit that anybody else may feel overwhelmed…

Thank you Per, for sharing your wonderful work with the world. For letting us know the story of Heather and her family… and their little hero.

Witnessing wonders like this shakes your heart… moving you to tears, breaking your voice with emotion… and even making you forget to translate some sentences here and there. But… who knows…? Maybe those inner turbulences make your heart expand changing it forever, widening the limits of what it can hold… Taking you closer to these extraordinary human beings.

Thank you IMC14!

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